Thursday, February 14, 2019

Big little things

My niece
Hugging me tighter
Than usual;

Words spill
On my heart
Making a mess
My mind
Will not erase;

Kissing me sweet
Clenching my fists;

The big things
Rest on that microscopic grin
On the right corner
Of my lips --

That is where you lie,
In the space between
My lines.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cauliflower rice

I do not consider myself a good cook. In fact, I do not think I will ever call myself a beast in the kitchen. Nonetheless, in the past couple of months, and this time consistently, my cute little old-school kitchen mutated into my most-liked, most-spent place in the world. I have always had an all-consuming relationship with food, and by all-consuming, I mean I consume a lot. Then, the more gourmet — as well as the more greasy it was — the better. Nevertheless, what got in my belly was never my own creation: I practically grew up sitting at the end of table waiting for whatever was being concocted, at home and in restaurants. I was made for food; yet food, I did not make. I am not proud of it — but I did not bother to spend one minute behind the stove until I got my own place and even then, I do not suppose boiling water for pasta and adding ready-made sauce counts as a home-cooked meal. If I mastered al dente, that was already the victory. Until recently. 

Overweight. Underweight. Normal according to the BMI calculator. At times, I was all of the above in the space of a year. I got fed up of yoyo-ing. Losing the weight is a piece of cake compared to maintaining it. In the past, I would be over-the-top disciplined then as soon as I lost the kilograms, not have a care in the world. Always at unhealthy extremes. For instance, I would psych myself up for major cheat days in order to survive the agony of eating clean during the week; because for the longest time, I truly believedclean’ meant boring salads which, to this day, I still can hardly stomach (pun intended). Truth of the matter is, talk or feelings about the right bodyweight is one of those issues that requires such... diplomacy, not only from our surroundings but really, from ourselves. We are hardest on ourselves. Sure, no one in his right hand mind wants to be... on the heavier side of things (I am all about body positivity, trust me), like no one in his healthy mind wants to be... skin and bones either (I am all about body positivity, trust me) — but what we do want, what we all thrive for — is to feel comfortable, amazing, sexy as fuck when we look in the mirror. 

Like millions before me, with me, and after me — I began to be painstakingly conscious about body image, rather altering mine, when my health started to fail me. In my case, it was not just physical health — though I will not lie, of course a main motivation was also to feel comfortable, amazing, sexy as hell every time I would take a mirror selfie. I am grateful to live in a time and age where we can access information in less than a second (though it must be said, like a double-edged sword, the overflow of information can often become overwhelming); but what surprised me the most was how little I knew. How little I actually controlled. How I never explicitly concerned myself with ‘good health’, this based on the belief that it is only something we must face if sickness strikes (obviously, guilty as charged.) Thus, how my life was starting to feel like I was just sitting at the end of the table simply waiting for whatever was being concocted for me. In every aspect. I have struggled my entire life with the ever-pressing desire to stay in control. I still cannot, and never will. However, what I could  — I aspired to master it. What followed, what happened in the kitchen, resulted in one of my proudest achievements.  

I became curious. Aware. Experimental. Definitely not a natural talent. Remarkable apps such as Buzzfeed’s TastyShaun T’s revolutionary Insanity program, POPSUGAR's workout videos and success stories have now become a staple in my routine. Food is a science, a fun one at that; but still a calculating, know-your-shit matter nonetheless. I researched — and more than following the current fitness or diet trends, whether it be paleo, keto or what-eo, I was impelled to get my head around the benefits from nutrition and sports — and how, truthfully, they are the ingredients to finding balance — or imbalance — in life. More importantly, it took a journey of a lifetime to realize that physical, emotional and mental health are intrinsically intertwined: my nutrition affects my mood and my sweat session alters my state of mind. Not always drastically, but drastically in the long run. I am going to rely on cliché here; but healthy lifestyle, healthy body... A healthy soul must follow.  Essentially, when it came (and it still comes) to a point where my not-always-kind thoughts and feelings seem to steer the direction of my days, I am convinced that I am still capable of managing how I fuel my body. 

Life is like a savoury dish. There are ingredients. There is a processThere is portion controlThere is just the right amount of salt. And in the end, it is the blend that will not only make us feel balanced — but satiated. There are too many life metaphors in cooking. All true, nonetheless. Some vegetables are a pain in the ass to cut, but the result is very much worth the labor. I prepared butternut squash for the first time this week. Baking requires following a recipe to a T, which can be tricky for people who despise orders; yet oftentimes, we do need to accept and trust the system — because it works. Some courses need relentless stirring, as living does, as does the learning curve. Moreover, unconventional inventions continuously take the Internet by storm, and my belly in the process. Exploring never stops. Zucchini pizza? Hummus on tomato toast? Avo-egg-in-a-hole? So creative. So healthy. So yummy. My favorite is something I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago, and I can safely say that I fell head-over-heels in love with cauliflower rice. I was reluctant in the beginning — because while I may be a huge fan of rice (I am Filipino, after all), I did not have a particular inkling to cauliflower. Broken down however, it is culinary heaven. 

I was fed up of yoyo-ing; but life, ultimately, is the game of yoyo-ing per excellence, isn’t it? It is full of ups and downs, sure, yet what always enslaves us is that we cannot predict how long a high lasts — or a low, for that matter. Despite our best efforts. It is even more frustrating when we take necessary measures and advice to heart, still, a right 'recipe' does not exist. I discovered that when I cook, I am at my calmest. Grounded. Mindful. Patient. There is patience in cutting vegetables. There is patience in marinating meat. There is patience in seeing the meal broil in the oven. There is even patience in arranging the plate in such a way that is instagrammable for the food diary. When some battles break our hearts, we should let them. Fall of the wagon. Lack. Remorse. Throw in the towel. Curse God. When what weighs heavy throws us off balance, and there is not much more we can do; break down, then grind it like cauliflower rice. Because the most fulfilling recipe I learned from becoming a beast (I changed my mind, I will call myself that) in the kitchen in the last couple of months is that us humans are capable of taking something raw, crude, underdone -- and still create something delightful out of itA binge-eat session (or a thousand) will not outweigh consistent effort, nor will a mental breakdown (or even a thousand) define the flavours of our lives. When we learn to become patient with food, along the way, almost unconsciously, we become more patient with ourselves.

Last Thursday, I could not help but notice how one of my go-to cafés mutated from a smart 'digital natives' coffee house to this sultry after-work space after sundown. There were candles. I was caught off guard. Perhaps also because I had never stayed as late. Same place, other world. God knows that this accept and love yourself mantra is the most arduous, labyrinthine, nearly impossible achievement in life. We are hardest on ourselves. One step closer to the goal, then the goal changes. Or did we? Truth is, while adopting a healthy lifestyle and embarking on a fitness journey may alter our body, tremendously, outrageously; it is even more miraculous how it trains our mindset. It can catch us off guard, but it is really the same person we are looking at in the mirror; only stronger. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. We are not creatures of habit. We never were -- and we should not live as such. We are beautiful creatures of transformation. In the end, maybe that is what it is all about: what begets change is the tiniest change in the kitchen. During workouts. During the day. Because if cauliflower can turn into rice, what are we capable of? 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

To date

In the last couple of weeks, people bombarded my social media feed with their #10yearchallenge photos. Some were entertaining. Some, quite sweet. A few, on the other hand, were downright cringe-worthy. I guess there is something about ringing the new year that makes us want to revise how much we have changed — or haven’t, for that matter. Now I am not quite sure what should stick. January 2009, for me, was the time I decided to secure my own little space in the vast, exciting www jungle; and for someone who is very much obsessed with peculiar dates and celebrating anniversaries, I cannot believe I almost forgot this milestone. Perhaps because of continuity. Perhaps because I have always written. 

In a time and age where our entire lives are already being archived while the events are still happening, looking in the rear view mirror still manages to beget all kinds of emotions: joy, surprise, fear, regret, envy, love, nostalgia. A complete and utter reassessment of self. The other day, my friend told me that he would do anything to be to able to share useful insights with his younger self on... well, life. Mitigate the confusion. That being different is okay. That it gets easier. If the more energetic, less wrinkly version of ourselves were armed with other — better tools —, would they have dealt or taken a different — better approach to life then? Straight away, this train of thought got me to brood on this utopian wishful thinking. I could not help but wonder — why, really, do we devalue inexperience?  Why should we have known better?

We have a tendency to glorify as much as curse innocence or past events. We miss the lightheartedness as much as tremble -- as soon as we reminisce about the first pains of #adulting. A moment molds a person. A decade changes a person — beyond measures. Ten years ago, I could drink a whole bottle of vodka and wake up the next day as if I were sipping only water. Now, I actually only drink water. Ten years ago, I was confident that my broken heart would never recover from, what I imagined, was my one chance at love. Now, I know true love comes in very different shapes and forms. Ten years ago, I was less understanding. I was more judgmental. I was less predictable. I was more stubborn. Having said that, I acknowledge that these more or less features were -- and are, naturally, strongly influenced by external factors. Experience does that. Nevertheless, experience also taught me that there are qualities that are deeply rooted in our core -- regardless of what will happen. Ethan Hawke’s character Jesse tells a story in Before Sunset which I often come back to: it is a study of two types of people who have different fates. One — cynical, hard-headed — wins the lottery, and the other — kind, full of life — becomes a paraplegic. One would assume that the first will be enthusiastic for the rest of his life while the other stays relentlessly mad at his unfair circumstances; but once the new situation settled in, both went back to being exactly who they are. I trust that this is true. I am still as disciplined. Curious. Gregarious. Spontaneous. Nice. Opinionated. Wild. Hopeful. Still somewhat naive. Sure, there are times I wish I could have watered it down because it either got me into trouble or hurt me -- to be this way; but fundamentally, no amount of bad eggs, expired milk or terrible poems can ever water down who you truly are. Ten years ago, I went in with my head first. Now, I go in with my heart.

We read hundreds and hundreds of quotes every day on leaving the past where it belongs. In the past. I am not saying I do not agree, because I do; but I am one who also cannot live without it. And sometimes, I admit, I still live in it. Perhaps because I write. Perhaps because I have always written — and words always succeed to get me inside the time machine -- even it is just the time of a read. During this ten year challenge, and toasting to my very own ten-year blogging anniversary, I frantically had to urge to edit some of my old posts, before deciding not to. They were valid then — and they are valid now. Do I write the same? Do I write differently? I came to realize that inexperience has always been a writer’s best friend; because the more I know, the faster I write. But the less I do, the better I write. The same goes for living

I am more at ease in my own skin today than in my twenties. Doubts still persecute me. Dreams, then, will fill me. Growth is not always change; but change always means growth. In hindsight, things really happen the way the are supposed to because at the end of the day, no matter how old we are, no matter what path we take on, it is the one life we own -- and the only way we learn how to live is by living.

Friday, December 28, 2018


At times, owning up to being weak is the highest forms of strength.

Not the other way around

The only people who claim that material things do not matter are those who can afford them.